Chapter 13
Commonly Confused Words

In this chapter we will examine some of the commonly confused words in written English as they may not be clear in spoken English.

Abut/About
Abut, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to border" or "to lie next to." About, an adverb is generally used when we mean "almost" or "nearly."

Adept/Adapt Adept, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "skilled." Adapt, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to adjust."

Adept/Adopt Adept, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "skilled. " Adopt, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to take in," "to take up," or "to vote for."

Ads/Adds Ads, a noun, is generally used when we mean advertisements. Adds, a verb, is generally used when we mean "combines" or "expands."

Advice/Advise Advice, a noun, is generally used when we mean "suggestion" or "guidance"  for example, "The manager gave Ashok advice." Advise, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to suggest" or "to give advice to"  for example, "Will you advise me before I go into the meeting?"

Aid/Aide Aid, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean "help" or "assistance." Aide, a noun, is generally used when we mean "a helper."

Ail/Ale Ail, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to feel unwell" or "to have pain." Ale, a noun, is generally used when we mean a type of drink.

Alter/Altar Alter, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to change." Altar, a noun, when we are referring to a table used in religious ceremonies.

Assess/Asses Assess a verb is generally used when we mean, "to evaluate." Asses, a plural noun, is generally used when we are referring to the donkey.

Augur/Auger Auger, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to the tool. Augur, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean a prophet or the act of prophesying  for example, "He has traits that augur well for his success."

Backwards/Backward Backward, an adverb or an adjective is generally used when we mean "in a reverse manner" or "toward the back or the past"  for example, "That was a backward idea." Backwards is used only as an adverb and we mean "in a reverse manner," or "toward the back or the past."

Bare/Bear Bare, which can be an adjective or verb, is generally used when we mean, "undressed," "simple," or "to reveal." Bear, which can be a noun or a verb, is generally used when we mean the animal or "to support" or "to produce."

Beet/Beat Beet, a noun, is generally used when we mean the plant Beet beat, a verb or a noun, is generally used when we mean "to hit," "to win," or a rhythm.

Bettor/Better Bettor, a noun, is generally used when we mean a person who bets. Better, which can be a noun, adjective, verb, or adverb, is generally used when we mean "superior" or "to improve."

Border/Boarder Border, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean, "edge" or "to be alongside of." Boarder, a noun, is generally used when we mean a paying guest.

Breath/Breathe Breath, a noun, is generally used when we mean the process of breathing, inhalation, or exhalation  for example, "She took a deep breath." Breathe, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to inhale and exhale"  for example, "Breathe deeply and smell the roses."

Bridal/Bridle Bridal, an adjective, is generally used when we are referring to a wedding. Bridle, a noun, is generally used when we mean "a harness." Bridle, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to harness" or "to show resentment"  for example, "She bridled at the suggestion."

Broach/Brooch Broach as a noun, is generally used when we are referring to the tool or as a verb when we mean "to bring up" or "to pierce." Brooch, a noun, is generally used when we mean a pin or clasp.

Brows/Browse Brows, a noun, is generally used when we mean the eyebrows. Browse, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to scan through."

Callous/Callus Callous, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "unfeeling." Callus, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean a thickened part of the skin or to develop a thickened part of the skin.

Cant/Can't Cant, a noun, is generally used when we mean "slope" or a type of speech. Can't, a contraction, is generally used when we mean, "cannot."

Cloth/Clothe Cloth, a noun, is generally used when we mean "fabric." Clothe, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to dress."

Confident/Confidant Confident, an adjective, is generally used when we mean, "assured"  for example, "She is confident she will get the promotion Confidant, a noun, is generally used when we mean "friend"  for example, "He is her only confidant."

Decent/Descent Decent, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "proper" or "adequate." Descent, a noun, is generally used when we mean "a slope" or "a downward motion."

Dependent/Dependant Dependent, an adjective or noun, a noun, is generally used in the context of relying on someone or something. Dependant is used only as an alternative spelling of the noun form.

Desert/Dessert Desert, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean a type of land or "to abandon." Dessert, a noun, is generally used when we mean a class of food.

Dingy/Dinghy Dingy, an adjective, is generally used when we mean, "dirty" or "worn." Dinghy, a noun, is generally used when we mean a type of boat.

Dominant/Dominate Dominant, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "most influential" or "prominent." Dominate, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to control" or "to rule over."

Downwards/Downward Downward, an adverb or adjective is generally used when we mean "descending" or "declining"  for example, "We do not see a downward trend in sales." Downwards is generally used only as an adverb when we mean "descending" or "declining" for example "The sales is going downwards".

Elicit/Illicit Elicit, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to obtain." Illicit, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "illegal."

Envelop/Envelope Envelop, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to enclose completely." Envelope, a noun, is generally used when we mean a type of container that carries paper or similar things.

Extant/Extent Extant, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "still in existence." Extent, a noun, is generally used when we mean "the range or area that a thing covers."

Faze/Phase Faze, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to disturb." Phase, a noun, is generally used when we mean "a certain stage or condition."

Feat/Feet Feat, a noun, is generally used when we mean "an act of courage or achievement." Feet noun is generally used when we are referring to a part of a body, the lower end of an object, or a unit of measurement.

Find/Fined Find, a verb or noun, is generally used when we mean, "to locate," "to detect," or "a discovery." Fined, a verb is generally used when we mean, "having been required to pay an amount of money".

Flare/Flair Flare, a verb or noun, is generally used when we mean "to flame up" or "a blaze of light." Flair, a noun, is generally used when we mean "talent"  for example; "He has a flair for decorating."

Flea/Flee Flea, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to the insect Flea. Flee, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to run away."

Forebear/Forbear Forbear, a verb or noun, is generally used when we mean, "to resist," "to stop," or "an ancestor." Forebear is used only as a noun when we mean "an ancestor."

Gong/Going Gong, a noun or verb, is generally used when we are referring to a type of musical instrument or to playing that instrument. Going, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "leaving," "proceeding," or "working."

Grate/Great Grate, a verb or noun, is generally used when we mean, "to shred," "to irritate," or "a structure made of metal bars." Great, an adjective is generally used when we mean "big," "important," or "outstanding."

Grater/Greater Grater, a noun, is generally used when we mean a tool. Greater, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "bigger" or "more important."

Herd/Heard Heard, a verb, is generally used when we mean perceiving sound or "listening." Herd, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean "to flock" or "to assemble."

Hew/Hue Hew, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to cut"  for example, "The workers will hew a new trail to the waterfall. Hue, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to color or appearance  for example, "The hue of the silk dress was a delicate blue."

Hoard/Horde Hoard, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean "riches" or "to accumulate." Horde, a noun, is generally used when we mean "a large crowd."

Hostel/Hostile Hostel, a noun, is generally used when we mean a type of lodging. Hostile, an adjective or noun is generally used when we mean "unfriendly" or "one who is unfriendly."

Incite/Insight Incite, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to urge" or "to stimulate"  for example, "Her speech will incite them into action." Insight, a noun, is generally used when we mean "perceptiveness" or "understanding"  for example, "Their insight into the situation was very useful."

Indoor/Indoors Indoor, an adjective, is generally used to modify a noun or pronoun, as in "indoor pool." Indoors, an adverb, is generally used to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, as in "walked indoors."

Inward/Inwards Inward, an adjective, is generally used to modify a noun or pronoun, as in "inward chamber." Inwards, an adverb, is generally used to modify an adjective, verb, or other adverb, as in "go inwards."

Its/It's Its, a pronoun, is generally used when we are indicating possession, as in "its branches." It's, a contraction, is generally used when we mean, "it is"  for example, "It's a long way to the station."

Laps/Lapse Lapse, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean "to decline" or "to revert." Laps, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean, "to drink," "the motions of waves," or "to overlap."

Lessen/Lesson Lesson, a noun, is generally used when we mean "instruction" or "example." Lessen, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to decrease."

Let's/Lets Let's, a contraction, is generally used when we mean, "let us." A let, a verb, is generally used when we mean "allows" or "rents."

Loath/Loathe Loath, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "unwilling" or "afraid"  for example, "Although he was loath to apologise, he did it." Loathe, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to dislike"  for example, "The only vegetable they loathe is cabbage."

Mane/Main Main, an adjective or noun, is generally used when we mean "most important" or "most important point." Mane is generally used when we are referring to the hairy part on the head or the neck of a horse or other animals.

Mind/Mined Mind, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean "intellect," "sense," or "to obey." Mined, a verb is generally used when we mean "tunnelled" or "excavated."

Miner/Minor Miner, a noun, is generally used when we mean a type of worker. Minor, an adjective or noun, is generally used when we mean "lesser" or "a child."

Mite/Might Mite, a noun, is generally used when we mean the animal or an amount of money. Might, a noun or a verb, is generally used when we mean "strength" or "a sense of possibility."

Moral/Morale Moral, an adjective or noun, is generally used when we mean "virtuous," or "a kind of truth." Morale, a noun, is generally used when we mean "a group's attitude."

Morn/Mourn Morn, a noun, is generally used when we mean the morning. Mourn, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to express sorrow."

Navel/Naval Navel, a noun, is generally used when we mean a type of orange or the depression in the middle of the abdomen. Naval, an adjective, is generally used when we are referring to the navy.

New/Knew New, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "fresh" or "additional." Knew, a verb, is generally used when we mean "recognised," "understood," or "experienced."

No/Know No, an adjective or adverb, is generally used when we mean a denial or "not any." Know, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to recognise," "to understand," or "to experience."

Of/Have Of is used as a preposition  for example, "The scarves were made of silk." Have, is used as a verb  for example, "The silk scarves have embroidered flowers."

Outdoor/Outdoors Outdoor, an adjective, is generally used to modify a noun. Outdoors, an adverb, is generally used to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

Outwards/Outward
Outward, an adjective or adverb, is generally used when we mean "outer." Outwards is generally used only as an adverb when we mean "outer" or "toward the outside."

Peddle/Pedal Peddle, a verb, is generally used to when we mean, "to sell." Pedal, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean a part of an instrument or machine or to operate with pedals  for example, "The pedal on the bicycle broke."

Pleas/Please Pleas, a noun, is generally used when we mean, "appeals"  for example, "The pleas for a longer recess were not heard." Please, a verb is generally used when we mean "to be agreeable" or "to give enjoyment." We use please, an adverb, in polite requests.

Populace/Populous Populace, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to people. Populous, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "numerous" or "crowded."

Pray/Prey Pray, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to ask" or "to plead." Prey, a noun, is generally used when we mean a hunted animal or a victim.

Pride/Pried Pride, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean "self-respect" or "to be proud." Pried, a verb is generally used when we mean "to inquire too closely" or "to force open."

Principal/Principle Principle, a noun, is generally used when we mean a rule or a standard. Principal, an adjective or noun is generally used when we mean "main," "the main participant," or "the head of a school."

Prophesy/Prophecy Prophecy, a noun, is generally used when we mean "prediction"  for example, "The prophecy came true." Prophecy, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "to predict"  for example, "He says he can prophesy the future."

Prostate/Prostrate Prostate, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to the prostrate gland. Prostrate, a verb or adjective is generally used when we mean "to bow down" or "lying down."

Rote/Wrote Rote, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to a type of speaking. Wrote, a verb, is generally used when we mean, "having formed letters or words."

Stationary/Stationery Stationary, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "not moving"  for example, "The weather front was stationary." Stationery, a noun, is generally used when we mean "writing paper."

Team/Teem Team, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean, "group" or "to form a team." Teem, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to overflow" or "to swarm."

Thats/That's That's, a contraction, is generally used when we mean "that is." Thats is always incorrect.

Their/There/They're Their, a pronoun, is generally used when we are indicating possession, as in "their house." There, an adverb is generally used when we are referring to a particular location, time, or action  for example, "Sit over there." They’re a contraction, is generally used when we mean, "they are"  for example, "They're coming Home tomorrow."

Their's/Theirs Theirs, a pronoun, is generally used when we are indicating possession. Their's is always incorrect.

Tide/Tied Tide, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to the rise and fall of the ocean. Tied, a verb is generally used when we mean "bound" or "connected."

Undo/Undue Undo, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to reverse" or "to open." Undue, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "excessive" or "not proper."

Upwards/Upward Upward, an adjective or adverb, is generally used when we mean "overhead," "above," or "toward a higher place"  for example, "There was an upward trend in the stock market today." Upwards is generally used only as an adverb when we mean "toward a higher place"  for example, "She looked upwards."

Urn/Earn Urn, a noun, is generally used when we mean "vase." Earn, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to acquire" or "to gain."

Vein/Vain Vein, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to a blood vessel, a fissure, or a mood. Vain, an adjective, is generally used when we mean "fruitless" or "proud."

We're/Wer We're, a contraction, is generally used when we mean, "we are." Wer is generally used when we are indicating possession, as in "wer garden."

Who's/Whose Who's, a contraction, is generally used when we mean, "who is." Whose, a pronoun, is generally used to indicate possession  for example, "Whose books are these?"

Wile/While Wile, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean, "trick" or "to trick." While, a noun or verb, is generally used when we are referring to time or an interval of time.

Wither/Whither Wither, a verb, is generally used when we mean "to shrivel up" or "to fade." Whither, an adverb is generally used when we mean "to what place or condition."

Wont/Won't Won't, a contraction, is generally used when we mean "will not." Wont, an adjective is generally used when we mean "accustomed to" or "likely" for example, "He is wont to do these things."

Yolk/Yoke Yolk, a noun, is generally used when we are referring to a part of an egg. Yoke, a noun or verb, is generally used when we mean a type of harness or "to harness."